November 5, 2009

Endure like a soldier

After eight hours sleep in a king-size bed, a warm shower, dressing in clean clothes that fit, and eating a pear and a toasted English muffin with peanut butter, I’m not able to relate to today’s devotional verse.
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (2 Timothy 2:3)
In context, it is about a pastor’s role in disciple-making. Paul is writing to a young pastor and tells him, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (verse 2).

Timothy was young, one strike against him because it gave opponents of Christianity an excuse to dismiss his teaching. He also had this role when the church was new and persecution for following Jesus was common. He needed this reminder to endure hardship for he faced it every day.

Some hardship comes to leaders from within. Several verses indicate young Timothy was by nature a timid man. He had to battle his own fears and sense of inadequacy. More opposition came from the world outside the church too. People did not like the message of the Cross and one way to reject it was by getting rid of its messengers. Spiritual opposition came from Satan as well. This enemy is always trying to thwart or destroy any attempts to tell others about Jesus. He does not want Christians to become more like their Lord and Savior either.

Timothy is not alone. Today’s pastors also face opposition and difficulties. Their role is broad yet basic. The truths of the Christian faith and life must be passed on to the next generation. Christians must be taught and trained, sometimes rebuked and corrected. Most of the people in the pew resist change, offering their pastor a forth kind of opposition because the way many Christians resist personal change and growth is by attacking the pastor.

Oh, that is not the only reason. Some pastors have slipped off their divine calling and no longer teach and preach the truth. They should be rebuked and corrected (rather than roasted for Sunday dinner). Some do not take the Bible seriously and fail to use it properly in their weekly messages, making them weakly messages. Those pastors need to be challenged also.

Yet even those who are doing a good job face criticism and pettiness concerning the tie they are wearing (or not wearing), the music selected for the worship service, the color of the new paint in the foyer, the messages they preach (or should preach), the way they deliver that message, and a host of other deflating attacks. These come from people who would never say that they are on the side of the world, the flesh, and the devil, but their actions betray them.

I’ve never been a pastor nor want to be one, but even a slight taste of the battle of leadership show me that being up front means having your backside exposed. It calls for endurance, for soldierlike singleness of purpose.

In my cushy life, if someone opposes me about my responsibility of teaching a Bible class and interacting with Christian women, I feel like running. It must be many times more extreme for pastors. Yet instead of running, God calls His people to endure, to keep our eyes on Him and the goals He sets before us. Hardship might come in various degrees of challenge, but the response is always the same — just soldier on.

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